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What Is Irritable Bowel Disease?


Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a collective term for a group of conditions marked by the chronic inflammation of the digestive tract due to a faulty immune response. In the United States, approximately 3 million individuals are currently living with the disease.

Despite a notable increase in incidence rates worldwide, IBD can be challenging for doctors to diagnose and treat, emphasizing the importance of adopting holistic management approaches. IBD is not the same as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a gastrointestinal disorder that affects bowel functions without evidence of inflammation.

Types of IBD

The two different types of IBD include:

Crohn’s disease: 

Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the digestive tract between the mouth and the anus. However, it typically manifests more frequently in the distal portion of the small intestine, causing inflammation in healthy mucosal tissues.

Ulcerative colitis:

Ulcerative colitis primarily affects the innermost lining of the large intestine and rectum. Inflammation usually forms a continuous pattern, giving a uniform appearance.

What are the symptoms of IBD?

The symptoms of IBD can vary from one person to another, ranging from mild to severe. Common IBD symptoms are weight loss, fatigue, blood in stool, and persistent diarrhea. Other symptoms may include fever, reduced appetite, and the urgent need for a bowel movement.

Individuals navigating IBD might encounter phases of heightened symptoms known as “flare-ups” followed by intervals of relief called “remission,” highlighting the unpredictable nature of the condition.

People with IBD may also encounter symptoms that extend beyond the digestive system, such as fever, joint pain, and skin conditions. The symptoms of IBD can be similar to those of other conditions, so a proper diagnosis by a healthcare professional is essential.

How do you test for IBD?

Diagnosing IBD involves a comprehensive approach that begins with a review of symptoms and medical history. The healthcare professional will perform a physical exam to assess signs of inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.

Blood tests can provide information about anemia, infection, and inflammatory biomarkers. Other tests include imaging such as CT scans or MRIs that allow the doctor to view the intestines and evaluate the extent of inflammation. 

Individuals may also receive a colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy, which allows for direct visualization of the colon and enables the collection of tissue samples or biopsies for further analysis.

A biopsy is essential for confirming the diagnosis of IBD and distinguishing it from other forms of inflammation. These diagnostic measures help doctors identify IBD and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

How to care for IBD holistically?

Prioritizing a well-balanced and easily digestible diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat and nonfat dairy products can aid digestion and prevent worsening symptoms.

You can also incorporate exercise, relaxation techniques, and physical activity to support overall health and boost physical and emotional well-being. Adopting a holistic approach to IBD can revitalize your well-being, elevate your health, and help you effectively manage any IBD-related challenges.

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